Whether you're just beginning your recovery or are further along on your journey, the holistic practices discussed on this page can be an excellent compliment to therapy and medication. These methods of self-discovery can help you become more in touch with your mind, body and soul while giving you an increased sense of control over your recovery process. You can implement many of these recommendations by yourself on your own time. Everyone’s recovery and experience with mental illness is different. Accordingly, these suggestions will work for some, but not for everyone. There is no harm in trying one or a few of these ideas, but in the end, it comes down to what works for you.
1. Find a quiet place where you can be alone and away from distractions such as the conversations of others, the television or the radio.
2. Sit down, either on the floor, a cushion, grass or a chair. Keep your shoulders back and your head upright. If sitting in a chair keep your back straight. You can also lie on your back. Wherever you decide to sit make sure you are comfortable.
3. Rest your hands flat on your legs or clasp them together, laying them on your waist. Again, do whatever is most comfortable for you.
4. Stay still. You can close your eyes or lower your gaze, letting your eyes de-focus on the tip of your nose or an inch or two in front of your face.
5. Focus on your breathing, feel your surroundings, feel the air brushing against you, the ground or the object you are sitting on.
6. Clear your thoughts. Your mind will naturally begin to wander when meditating; it is inevitable, especially when you are first starting. Instead of fighting these thoughts, simply try to let them go and return back to your meditative focus and correct body position.
7. The more you practice the easier it becomes to get into and stay in a meditative state. Start with five minute sessions. As you become more comfortable increase the amount of time you put aside to meditate.
Focusing on your breathing during meditation is an important component of the practice. It helps you to remember to breathe while meditating, teaches you to breathe with your diaphragm and can be a great way to clear your mind.
Follow the same steps listed under “Basic Meditation” as far as finding a place to meditate and body position.
You may find it helpful to rest a hand on your stomach or chest to feel the air entering and leaving your body.
Take a slow and deep inhale, and then exhale at the same speed you inhaled. Silently count your breaths upon each exhale. Example: Breath in, breath out, one. Repeat this all the way through 10 and then restart. You can also try inhaling for five counts, then exhaling for five counts. Repeat.
Try repeating word in your head upon each exhale instead of a number. Simply thinking “out” during each exhale, or picking a positive word like “love,” can help set a pace.
When you have finished your deep-breathing exercise, remain seated for a couple of minutes as it is possible to get lightheaded when standing up due to the increased intake of oxygen.
Mindfulness is now the fastest-developing area in mental health. The clinical value of mindfulness interventions has been demonstrated for many psychological difficulties, including depression, anxiety, chronic pain, substance abuse, insomnia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Mindfulness can also enhance emotional well-being of clinicians, helping us develop beneficial therapeutic qualities such as acceptance, attention, compassion, equanimity, and presence that enrich and enliven our work and help us avoid burnout. Once we have developed these qualities in ourselves, we can safely and thoughtfully introduce our patients to practices that lead to a wide variety of clinical benefits. Mindfulness can be a refuge for the therapist, deepen the therapeutic relationship, and be used as a tool for out patients.
Mindfulness practices can be powerful tools to increase our tolerance for painful emotions, enhancing our ability to remain attentive while sitting with suffering. This is important for a strong alliance, because our patients usually express only those feelings they believe we can tolerate hearing. On the other hand, if we’re able to be with a fuller range of experience, this will help our patients do the same.Especially for those who have a history of trauma, we suggest starting with a meditation like the one above that focuses on sound and being present, rather than following the breath, which can be a trigger for trauma survivors.
Our goal in introducing mindfulness practices to patients is not to turn them all into dedicated meditation practitioners, but to help them find balance, kindness, and fulfillment in their lives. When research shows that even a taste of mindfulness can help, we owe it to our patients (and ourselves) to learn the practices and pass them on.
In the practice of mindfulness, we bring attention to our experience in the present moment. We let go of our regrets and rumination about the past, or our worries about the future, and return our attention to what is happening right now. We start by focusing on the sounds in the room, the sensations of the breath, or the feeling of sitting in a chair with our feet touching the floor. As we develop this skill of being open to and accepting of whatever is emerging, we become more present in our experience and that of others. As we become less distracted and preoccupied with our own concerns, we can listen more fully.
Current studies suggest that in successful treatment alliances, therapists are perceived as warm, understanding, and accepting, approaching their patients with an open, collaborative attitude. Mindfulness can help us develop these qualities. Of the many factors that interfere with attention during therapy, one of the most challenging is the arousal of powerful and painful feelings. Most patients discuss difficult experiences of illness, loss, failure, and disappointment. Unless we’re very good at denial, we realize that these misfortunes could easily befall us or our loved ones. Or, we may find ourselves overwhelmed by the pain and sadness we experience simply because we empathize with our patients.
Mindfulness involves practicing three basic skill sets, each with different effects:
1. Concentration, or focusing attention on a fixed object of awareness, which can help you understand the way your minds work;
2. Open monitoring, or paying attention to whatever is passing through your consciousness, which can help you remain curious and open to whatever emerges in life; and
3. Acceptance, which involves a developing a compassionate stance towards your experience and yourself. Though each skill is important to mindfulness, any one can potentially help or hinder a patient’s healing.
Guided imagery is another excellent tool for stress reduction. The process relies on visualization and mental imagery. A trained mediator (or a mediated recording) talks you through a mental journey. Some mediators focus on helping you to imagine yourself without stress or worry, while others seek to take your mind to a quiet and positive place such as a lake or beach. After you have practiced mediation on your own for awhile, you may want to try letting someone guide your mind to these positive mental arenas. You can use the same techniques learned in the “Basic Meditation” and “Deep Breathing” sections to relax and clear your head in preparation for your mental journey.
What is Guided Imagery?
A mental image can be defined as “a thought with sensory qualities.” It is something we mentally see, hear, taste, smell, touch, or feel. The term “guided imagery” refers to a wide variety of techniques, including simple visualization and direct suggestion using imagery, metaphor and story-telling, fantasy exploration and game playing, dream interpretation, drawing, and active imagination where elements of the unconscious are invited to appear as images that can communicate with the conscious mind.
Once considered an “alternative” “or complementary” approach, guided imagery is now finding widespread scientific and public acceptance, and it is being used to teach psychophysiological relaxation, alleviate anxiety and depression, relieve physical and psychological symptoms, overcome health-endangering habits, resolve conflicts, and help patients prepare for surgery and tolerate procedures more comfortably.
Mental images, formed long before we learn to understand and use words, lie at the core of who we think we are, what we believe the world is like, what we feel we deserve, what we think will happen to us, and how motivated we are to take care of ourselves. These images strongly influence our beliefs and attitudes about how we fall ill, and what will help us to get better. All healing rituals involve manipulation of these images, either overtly or covertly, and thus guided imagery can be considered one of the oldest and most ubiquitous forms of medicine. The healing rituals of various cultures that have persisted over time all have a certain level of clinical efficacy, and while we may attribute these therapeutic benefits to ‘placebo effects’, they have real and measurable effects with important implications for our understanding of the healing process.
In the early 1970s, inspired by the pioneering work of Irving Oyle, Carl and Stephanie Simonton, Robert Assagioli and others, Drs. David Bresler and Martin Rossman began to develop and research contemporary imagery approaches for patients coping with chronic pain, immune dysfunction, cancer, heart disease, and other catastrophic and life-threatening illnesses. By integrating techniques originating from Jungian psychology, Gestalt therapy, Psychosynthesis, Ericksonian hypnotherapy, object relations theory, humanistic psychology, and advanced communications theory, these approaches were constantly redefined, expanded, tested, and codified, giving birth to Interactive Guided Imagerysm, an extremely powerful, yet remarkably safe and rapid therapeutic approach for mobilizing the untapped healing resources of the mind. AGI (2011)
MEDITATION: MINDFULNESS & GUIDED IMAGERY
Intuitive Wellness Center LLC
INTEGRATIVE MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES